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Experts excavate ‘high status’ medieval building that could be a lost palace

An international team of archaeologists and students have excavated an enigmatic site which may be the location of a long-lost medieval palace.

The site, known as Mantle Walls, is in a field outside the village of Ancrum, Scotland, near the English border. Previous work has identified an “important” medieval building, but its purpose has not yet been determined.

“We are now trying to work out exactly what the building was,” Ian Hill of Heritage and Archaeological Research Practice (HARP) told the BBC.

Over the past two weeks, HARP, alongside the Ancrum and District Heritage Society (ADHS), local residents as well as students from the United States, Australia, Canada and the Netherlands, have participated in excavations on the site.

The aim of the excavation is to shed light on the medieval structure and learn more about its identity.

“All we know is high status, medieval and important, that’s all we know,” Sheila Munro of the ADHS told ITV. “We know there’s something really important here and with every dig we do, we get a little more information.”

The Mantle Walls site has attracted interest from local residents for decades. It has long been suspected that this is the site of a large residence belonging to one of Glasgow’s medieval bishops.

Image of an archaeologist carrying out an excavation. An international team of archaeologists and students have excavated what could be the site of a medieval palace in Scotland.

Historical records show that this bishop, William de Bondington, had a summer residence at Ancrum from the 1230s until his death in 1258.

There is evidence to suggest that Scottish royalty entertained at the Bishop’s Palace. In fact, Alexander II, who ruled Scotland for a period in the 13th century, signed at least three charters there in 1236.

Over the centuries, the structure that once stood on the walls of the mantle gradually disappeared. It is believed that many stones from the collapsed walls of the grouping were used in the construction of the neighboring village in the 17th and 18th centuries.

But allusions to the structure’s past, such as medieval pottery, regularly appeared as the field was plowed.

In the 1990s, a local resident, Alistair Munro, and a local historian, John Rogerson, began investigating the site. This work led other historians and archaeologists to take an interest in the mantle walls. Further research has been carried out at the site over the past decade.

Researchers have made several discoveries at the site, including medieval ironwork and significant stone walls, indicating that Mantle Walls was once the residence of the Bishop of Glasgow.

But conclusive evidence has proven elusive, in part because much of the stone has been removed, but also because metal detectors have been visiting the grounds for decades and removing artifacts.

“Although a significant medieval building has already been identified, we do not know the extent of the site or whether there were other buildings,” Hill told the BBC.

Although definitive proof of the structure’s identity has yet to be discovered, the archaeological work that has taken place to date at the site has resulted in Mantle Walls becoming a scheduled monument of national significance.

“I hope that over the next few weeks we can get closer to being able to say with certainty what was here. We have archaeologists and students from all over the world helping us, which shows how important it is “There’s interest in getting answers. We’re looking for them,” Munro told the BBC.


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